Canadians understand ice hockey intuitively. But most have no clue how stage bike racing works or what the appeal is of watch a bunch of guys on bikes for 6 hours for 20 days. To most it seems to just be "doesn't the rider who pedals hardest longest win?"
For years I've been trying to find an understandable way to explaining bike racing rules, tactics and strategy to non-Tour followers.
I am thinking that the surprise success of virtual unknown Ryder Hesjedal in this year's Tour ( 7th overall). might be the vehicle I need. All of Canada is agog over his success and a stage by stage analysis of the Hesjedal's race might make stage racing more comprehensible.
Undoubtedly Hesjedal is an extraordinarily talented rider.
But there must be many other talent riders who finished a hundred positions behind Hesjedal. Michael Barry for instance, a fellow Canadian, wound up 99th.
And I am trying to understand what besides skill and talent allows one rider to finish top 10 and another probably equal rider to finish 100 places back. I am thinking of using Hesjedal's experience in this Tour to explain the importance of team tactics, race dynamics, and even luck in determining success.
For instance, the fact that Garmin leader VandeVelde had to abandon in stage 3 (and later, Tyler Farrar) presumably meant that Hesjedal no longer had to ride at Vendevelde's service (as presumably Sky's Michael Barry had to do.) Hesjedal could grab his chances and follow breaks without worrying about letting down his team.
But I wasn't able to follow every stage this year.
What other significant moments were there that might have partially explained Hesjedals success and would explain race protocol or tactics?
Were there "Being in the right place at the right time" moments that pushed him up the GC?